DEBUT EP BETTER “BELATED.” THAN NEVER

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WORDS BY JOE FITZPATRICK AND TIM FOGG

PHOTOS BY JESSICA BRYCE AND BILLY SOURS

How do you take your emo pop? BELATED. prefers it “acoustic driven.”

In the driver’s seat is Jordon Ronan, the former vocalist of SHARP SLEEVES, a Blacksburg-based pop punk band previously known as HERO TO HUMAN.  In February 2016, in between college classes and writing music, Ronan drafted Tim Fogg from the Richmond punk band A COLLEGIATE AFFAIR to play lead guitar.

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MAKESHIFT SHELTERS DISCUSS THE PERSONAL NATURE OF THEIR DEBUT ALBUM, AS WELL AS THEIR PLANS TO RELOCATE TO NEW ENGLAND

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INTERVIEW BY JOE FITZPATRICK

PHOTOS BY NOORAN MATTIES, ALLY NEWBOLD, AND MIMI HONG

If you haven’t heard of MAKESHIFT SHELTERS, you may in fact be living under a rock. The emotionally-driven four-piece, which is based in both Washington, D.C. and New England, recently released their highly-anticipated debut album Something So Personal on Broken World Media. The full-length, 11-song record is “overflowing” with the emotion of each band member as vocalist Ella Boissonnault sings about her past experiences of disappointment and sorrow.

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TAKING INSPIRATION FROM MANCHESTER ORCHESTRA, GAINESVILLE’S CASTLE OF GENRE DISCUSS THEIR INDIE ROCK SOUND, AS WELL AS THEIR PLAN TO RELEASE A NEW ALBUM AND MOVE TO RICHMOND

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INTERVIEWED BY LAURA BITTNER

PHOTOS PROVIDED BY BRANDON IQBAL

CASTLE OF GENRE is a four piece band from Gainesville, Va. Its members are Joey Fall, Brandon Iqbal, Patrick Stolte, and Anthony Crawford. The self-proclaimed indie rock band from Northern Virginia creates their sound from inspiration from music which involves elements of storytelling, along with ample guitar variances. The band is split between two cities, but after years of working at it, they have practice and show schedules down pat. The band is set to release a new work in the near future, which will be preceded by a two-song pre-release on Bandcamp. During this interview, we spoke with Iqbal and Fall, their love for Richmond, Va., their local influences, and how they make things work with their busy schedules.

What school do you guys go to?

Joey: We go to George Mason University in Fairfax, Va. It’s a good campus. It’s a little bit like Hogwarts. The band is split between Richmond and Fairfax because our drummer lives in Richmond.

Is it hard to coordinate practices, etc. with band members being in different cities?

Brandon: Yeah, it was at first, but it’s been about a year and a half so now we’ve got the hang of it. We’ve been able to plan out rides for shows. One can come up and one can come down, so it’s pretty easy now.

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What do you guys like about Richmond?

Brandon: I think everyone’s gonna migrate down to Richmond this summer, so we’re all gonna be in Richmond eventually. … It’s like a really cool, kinda artsy city. There are a lot of bands, and places to play. It’s just better for bands like us to kinda get going there than it is up here [in Northern Virginia], which is kind of like a suburban/metropolitan area.

You said in your email that you’ve been really busy lately; did you recently tour? If not, what have you been up to?

Joey: We were off of school for winter break, so we had a mini kind of tour. We played a lot of house shows, and then we played in Richmond. We played Raleigh, North Carolina, and then went to Wilmington, N.C. We then ended [the tour] back in Richmond. So yeah, it’s kinda been nonstop for us. Also, we’re recording an album right now, so finding time to track guitars has been…[well], we’ve been using all the spare time we’ve got for that.

Who would you say you derive a lot of inspiration from?

Brandon: Oh man. I really love FALL OUT BOY. I love MANCHESTER ORCHESTRA and KEVIN DEVINE and that whole kind of storyteller rock thing going on. Joey pulls a lot from that kind of stuff — the very lyrical, storyteller rock kind of stuff — whereas I pull from a lot of weird stuff like TAME IMPALA or like THE CARMELLOS. I’m really into a lot of guitar-based stuff where you can use guitar in different ways to sound like synth, or something like that. I’m really into that. Or just like really loud, heavy guitars.

What are some of your favorite local bands you listen to?

CLICK HERE TO LISTEN TO CASTLE OF GENRE

CLICK HERE TO LISTEN TO CASTLE OF GENRE

Joey: I really like SATELLITES ON PARADE. Their band is really, really good — really solid. And the dudes from it are really nice. We originally started being good friends [with them]. They’re from [Northern Virginia] as well.

What made you guys decide to play music, or come together as a band?

Joey: I got really into bands when I was like 10, and I was like, “Hey, these guys are cool,” and I thought I could play music better than I could play sports. So I was like, “Yeah, let’s do music, that’ll be fun.” And then I started playing drums.

Brandon: The same for me, honestly. In like fifth grade, I bought a guitar, and I’ve been doing it and just watching bands, or like listening to a lot of different kinds of bands — BLINK-182, GREEN DAY, and stuff — and then eventually going to shows and being like, “Wow, that’s what I want to do.” And then realizing this is the only thing that I’m passionate about.

What would you say your band sounds like?

Brandon: We have a lot more distortion now, but it’s still “dancey” and catchy. [We had] a lot more clean tones [in the past], but this one is a little bit more gritty. I think there are a lot more yelling parts and more atmospheric stuff. I don’t wanna say it’s emo rock, because a lot of bands in this “emo revival thing” all kind of blend in, in a way, but I feel like we’re doing more straightforward rock. Stuff like MANCHESTER ORCHESTRA — real clean guitar, or like fancy parts or groovy parts. So really distorted guitars, but then there are cleaner parts that get kind of more jazzy and groovy.

cog 3If you could describe your ideal venue, what would it be like?

Joey: I really like house shows, and I really like when everyone’s like an inch away from you. Those kinda sets where you are an inch into the crowd. I guess for me, a venue where you’re just in there, and everyone’s around you, and you’re just like in a circle — like an arena. Pretty crazy, the whole kinda thing; everybody’s into it.

Brandon: So, like a circle pit, and you’re in the middle of it. … I definitely want space to be there, but I want there to be chandeliers. One chandelier above the band, and then a chandelier above the crowd. They’re not too high up. Basically it’s fancy, but they get really rough in there. Like really gritty and bloody/sweaty in there. And then there’s a dress code to the venue. I guess it’s like black tie optional, but you have to dress really nicely. So like more than semi-casual.  And then you can smoke cigarettes inside, because you can’t really do that anymore [anywhere]. I think there’s like one [venue you can smoke cigarettes inside that is] in the U.S.

Do you have any new music that you plan to release soon?

Joey: We’re gonna release two songs from the upcoming album onto Bandcamp for free around mid-February.

For more updates on CASTLE OF GENRE, please “like” their Facebook page, and visit their Bandcamp to listen to their latest single “Ghoul Noises.”

KAORU NAGISA DISCUSS THE LEGACY OF SCREAMO IN VIRGINIA, UPCOMING PROJECTS, AND THE SCI-FI AESTHETICS OF THEIR BAND’S MUSIC

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INTERVIEW BY JOE FITZPATRICK

PHOTOS BY NOORANN MATTIES

Founded on September 12, 2012 following the breakup of the Fairfax-based emo band STUDYING, vocalists TJ Whitehead and Chris Morgan, drummer John Crogan, and guitarist Ted Gordon started the band, which came to be known as KAORU NAGISA. The rest of the lineup, which includes vocalist Rebecca Lam, guitarist DJ Condon, and bassist Erich Brumback, was filled in by members of other emo and screamo bands from the Northern Virginia and Richmond music scenes. Though not all the members live in the same city, their passion for screamo and creating music together pushes them through. With a total of seven members, they are more like a small community with their own shared interests and ways of communicating. I sat down with Gordon, Morgan, Lam, and Brumback in Gordon’s Annandale townhome, while Crogan and Condon joined us from their home in Richmond broadcast over FaceTime on Gordon’s iPad.

What is “screamo” to you, individually or as a band?

DJ: Screamo means the world to me (laughs), and screamo is the music that basically got me into playing music, going on tour, and being in bands that I actually enjoyed.

Ted: I would say that screamo is interesting because obviously it’s a word that gets used to describe a lot of different things. I just call everything punk music, and I know not everybody will agree with that. But anything that carries on from the early rebellious attitudes and styles of American hardcore bands, like BLACK FLAG and whatnot, MINOR THREAT, and bands that I listened to in high school that meant a lot to me, that’s punk to me. Screamo means so many different things, so I use it to help describe the kind of music that we do, but it’s not always a very evocative phrase. … It doesn’t really work, so I just say “punk music.”  It’s loud and aggressive.

Chris: Screamo, to me, means an outlet for emotions, and I don’t feel like I can do that in a lot of other genres of music. I just feel like it’s a lot more genuine.

DJ: There’s no restraints with screamo music. There’s so many different kinds, and so many different mixes of it that it’s honestly to me one of the most creative styles of heavy music today because you can play any style of other music into it.

Why do you feel like other genres have restraints to expressing your emotions that screamo music does not?

DJ: In a lot of other types of music, you hear people talking about the main few bands that are that genre of music, and a lot of people feel like they need to make bands that sound exactly like those bands. I’m not saying that I don’t take influence from other bands, but I for sure draw influences from every style of music that I have ever enjoyed. I put that into music I make today.

Ted: I definitely think every genre has it’s constraints and themes it returns to. I say punk as an umbrage for everything because it’s easy to understand and easy to translate to people. But what I think “screamo” is are the bands that I started listening to in my late teens, like PG. 99, CITY OF CATERPILLAR, and MAJORITY RULE, and even European bands … that I really, really love. To me, there is something about a good scream song, especially one that carries on with tremendous dynamics that other genres don’t encapsulate it in terms of sheer emotion. To me, there are no songs that take you to really good highs and really good lows the way a good screamo song does.

Originally, you started the band with three vocalists, and it’s always a different mix of who’s doing it. What’s that like having multiple vocalists, and what’s the reasoning behind it?

Rebecca: Having three vocalists is cool, I think, because not many bands have more than two vocalists. So it is very cool to have a few voices, but it’s also chaotic sometimes, as you can tell. There’s enough vocals to fill the room for whatever type of music.

Chris: I think it also ties in with the live performance in that when you are playing a show, especially a screamo show, you want to have a lot of energy and get the audience involved, and having three standalone vocalists really contributes to that in that there are three “cannonballs” going in different directions into  the crowd and getting everyone involved.

Ted: Just to clarify, we have always had the same three vocalists from the beginning, but we do have other people [participate].  At this point a lot of people know the words so they’ll chip in, which is one of the unique things about what we do. Because we have seven people, we can do without sometimes one and even two members and have people fill in. We can have a friend who knows bass parts fill in, or a friend who knows vocal parts fill in. So we have had other people do vocals, but the vocal ensemble from the beginning has always been Rebecca, Chris, and TJ. That kind of happened by accident. I don’t think we meant it to be that way when we started.

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I know some of you guys also used to play in the Fairfax-based emo band STUDYING. Was the breakup of that band part of the reason why you formed KAORU NAGISA?

Ted: The whole reason we started was because STUDYING was breaking up, and I asked TJ if he wanted to be in a band with me because he was moving to Indiana. I knew I wanted to be in a band with TJ and with Eric, and then I asked John if he wanted to play drums because he is like “the drummer.” I think I’ve only ever been in a band with John as the drummer since I’ve been doing music for a long time now.

John: Naw man. I wasn’t in JAHAN.

Ted: That’s true; he wasn’t in JAHAN, my first screamo band. Then TJ said, “What about Rebecca?”  and  DJ said, “What about Chris?” So it started to feel like something I was cool with. … It ended up being a heavier band with three vocalists, which wasn’t something we set out to do. I just kind of happened. It;s kind of like our aesthetic.

You touched on it a little bit with TJ moving to Indiana, but I heard a rumor that the reason you started this band was to force some members to stay in touch after they moved to different states. Can you tell me about how your band got started?

Erich: STUDYING was breaking up, and STUDYING was a band that we have a lot of members from, like TJ, John, Chris …

Ted: And me.

Erich: And Ted. They were all looking for something new. So I think part of it was one ending begets something new. And SOLOMON [SOLOMON] broke up, which was Ted’s old band.

Ted: I was just trying to write new stuff and continue the same style. I think it is true that we did start the band so TJ would be forced to do something with us. He would have to come down to the area. I remember when we did our first EP, TJ hadn’t been at any practices or anything because he had been living in Indiana. So we would just send music and stuff. We did a whole bunch of demos. We would listen to them, and come back and rewrite. I remember when we came down to record for that, and that was a big event because he hadn’t been back in the area in a while.

Does your name come from a Japanese anime? What is its significance to your band?

Erich: Yes it does. It comes from Neon Genesis Evangelion, and I think we ended up picking that name because it was one thing that everyone in the band had in common.

Ted: Except for Chris (laughs).

Erich: Except  for Chris, everyone in this band had a love for that series. The other name we were thinking about was long.

Ted: We were trying to find common ground, and we were just talking about stuff that we  liked. We all liked Neon Genesis so one of the original names that we all agreed on for five minutes until somebody pushed against it was “Kawuro Nagisa died for your sins,” and then it was going to be the Japanese text. When the show was around, it was some kind of marketing technique they did.

John: It was a bumper sticker.

Ted: Right it was a bumper sticker, but we decided to cut it down to KAORU NAGISA.

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Your band used to be called “Kaworu Nagisa,” but about a year ago, you changed the spelling of it. Can you explain why that decision was made?

Ted: In most English translations there is a “W,” but we took out the “W” because I don’t know why. I remember that was Rebecca’s suggestion, but I don’t know why we did it. It works though.

Chris: I think we agreed it was more aesthetically pleasing without the “W” (laughs).

Who writes your lyrics? Is it a group effort, or is only one member responsible for them?

Ted: When we started the band, I had a very specific sci-fi aesthetic but not really science fiction in an of itself. One of the things that I really like about science fiction is its nature of being allegorical. One that I really enjoy is J.G. Ballard, an English author that writes a lot of short stories that are set in dystopian futures. They have a lot of “What ifs,” like what if the world was a giant city laid out grid-by-grid, and no one ever knew what flight was. Stuff like that. So I was like, what if we tried to be similarly allegorical and use sci-fi as strong imagery. I ended up writing the first EP’s lyrics, and I was cautious about it because I knew that I wouldn’t be doing any of the vocals. I was always sending them edits to make sure the lyrics were good, and eventually everyone just rolled with it. They picked the parts that they liked, and everyone took it from there. Pretty much after that first one, I have been hands off for lyrics.

Chris: For the split we did, we have three songs  so I thought it would be appropriate for each one of the vocalists to write about the main theme of what each song would be. So when the songs were in, I decided to pick one and then delegate the rest of the songs to the other two [vocalists]. So I just kept going with the sci-fi theme, and I wrote about some movie that I had seen called Doomsday Book.

Rebecca: I think we actually all wrote lyrics that had something to do with Doomsday Book because for the song that I picked, I wrote about being a robot and seeing how the world is from a robot’s point of view.

DJ: Will each of you say the song that you wrote on the split with SWAN OF TUONELA?

Chris: I wrote “A Six Part Seminar On Who Dies First,” TJ wrote “Will You Be Buried There?,” and Rebecca wrote … I forget (laughs) … “With The Same Eyes We Return.”

John: I named all the songs on Concessive (laughs)

Ted: Yes, that’s true.

Chris: And I named all the songs off of the split.

In November, you guys posted on Facebook that you will be writing two short songs, and you are “still in it to win it.” Can you tell me what they will be about and when you plan to release them?

Ted: We’re really behind in doing it, but it’s gonna happen. I’m just gonna have to force it through and make it happen. I don’t know what the songs are about because I’m not writing the lyrics.

Chris: I do.

Ted: I’ve written one of the songs at the very least. One of them is a split with COMA REGALIA from Indiana. We played with them over summer. … We had some wacky idea for a crazy 3″ record where we do a super short song, but now I think it’s gonna be a 7″

Chris: The idea came from Pat. He proposed a dual 3.5″ that would it side-by-side and be the size of a single 7″.

Ted: It’s still gonna happen, but we still gotta record. The other one is with Pat Bright, who Chris was mentioning. He plays guitar in GAS UP YR HEARSE from Illinois, and we also stayed at their house over the summer and played there. He is putting out a compilation called Swollen Lungs, and I think it’s his second one. We are also doing a very, very short song for that.

Chris: Being “in it to win it” has to do with still being a band.  Also, did you wanna know what the songs are about?

Ted: Sure. I don’t even know yet.

Chris: I’m pretty sure that one of the songs is going to be about a short online horror story called The Dionaea House about this sentient house that can change and morph and get people to do its bidding, and it eventually eats them.

Ted: Dionaea House is tight, if anybody hasn’t read it or seen it. I didn’t know it was about that, but that’s really awesome.

Was it made into a short film?

Chris: Actually, TJ just told me that the guy who wrote Dionaea House wrote a screen play for Dionaea House to be made into a film, and then the producers then asked him to write the prequel to The Thing.

CLICK HERE TO LISTEN TO KAORU NAGISA

CLICK HERE TO LISTEN TO KAORU NAGISA

 

Where are you potentially moving to?

Ted: We don’t know yet. I got married a year and a half ago, and my current job is ending. Our lease here is up so we have to find a new place to go to. I don’t know where that will be yet, but I’ve said from the beginning of this project that I have no intention of doing a “break up show” or last show. I think we did it when  STUDYING and SOLOMON SOLOMON broke up because people were moving and it sort of felt like it made sense. And I did it with my other band JAHAN too because one of our members was moving to California, but these are all some of my closest friends. Regardless of where I am, I want to keep making music with everybody, even if we are only together  once a year. … We’ll just keep going as long as everybody else wants to do it.

DJ: Forever.

Ted: I like how FUGAZI did it. They just went on hiatus, and they can put out a record whenever. Like who knows?

Since you guys have played in screamo bands for so long, and now there are more screamo bands than there have ever been, do you think screamo has a legacy in Virginia, or is it starting to have a legacy?

DJ: PAGE 99.

Erich: When you say screamo having a legacy in Virginia, it made me think of your first question, what screamo means to us individually. I remember being in high school and getting into screamo maybe more so than any other genre because I had been finding out about the legacy that it does have in Virginia. … There was something about what was taking place in Virginia so close to where I lived that it made it more real, or more relevant in a sense, which made me a lot more interested in it immediately. It’s cool that we’ve ended up participating in it. I think it definitely has a legacy in Virginia, and like DJ said, PAGE 99  and all the bands associated with it.

Ted:  To me, and I think everyone in the band knows, for me CITY OF CATERPILLAR is the top of the top. I think the fact that there were a lot of bands from here of the highest caliber [with] amazing musicianship, amazing songwriting, and wonderful lyrics, that is enough for me to consider it a legacy. And there’s so much going on now down in Richmond, and to think that any of us had anything to do with it means a lot to me for sure.

For more updates on KAORU NAGISA, be sure to “like” their Facebook page, and listen to their music on Bandcamp. You can also pick up their physical releases through VG Night, a tape label run by Gordon and his wife. 

RAINTREE EMBODY VIRGINIA DIY WITH THE HELP OF FAMILY MEMBERS AND FRIENDS, AND ENCOURAGE GROWTH OF THE EMO SCENE IN CHARLOTTESVILLE

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INTERVIEW BY CHRIS SUAREZ

PHOTOS BY THE MODERN OWL PHOTOGRAPHY AND DESIGN

Earlier last month, I met with RAINTREE bassist Peter Sacco after a house show in Richmond. Driving down from the band’s hometown of Charlottesville, Sacco and I discussed the direction of the post-rock/indie/emo group in the months following their latest record, For A Little While, which was released last summer. The band has earned some recognition throughout the state. Some would say they’ve become one of the more mature and grown up representatives of Virginia’s growing emo scene — both in age and musical ability. Check out what Sacco has to say about their latest record and new material the band is currently working on.

What’s your name, and what do you do in RAINTREE?

My name is Peter Sacco. I mainly play bass, but in our newest stuff, I’m playing Tenor Sax and auxiliary instruments like bells and percussion, and I do some backing vocals.

Tell me about the history of your band. When did you guys get started?

Our lead guitarist [Drew Snell], singer/guitarist [Blake Layman] and his brother, our drummer, [Gavin Layman] all started out back in 2010. Shortly after, they added our current pianist Emmitt Spicer. That’s when they originally started working on the first release, When Men Were Made of Iron EP. I originally joined the band because they needed someone to fill in on bass for their first show, and I was a big fan because I had heard their stuff and was already friends with them, so they were like, “Why aren’t you already in the band?”

After that, we started working on our full-length right off the bat. It took us awhile because it was self-recorded, produced, mixed and mastered, which I did the majority of that work recording and engineering it. It ended up coming out sometime in 2014, but I couldn’t tell you when exactly, because we had it for so long. I also did the cover art for it too. It was really awesome because it was self-autonomous. We tried to do everything ourselves or have someone we knew help out on it. A friend of ours, Blake Melton, helped with engineering, and my brother [John Sacco] helped with the graphic design on the album. His wife, my sister-in-law [Emily Sacco] did the promo pictures and everything. It was really cool to have that sense of us doing it self-sufficiently.

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There seems to be such a sense of community and family with this band. There are brothers in the band, and you had much of your own family involved with the album’s production.

It’s interesting because the concept of the album is about people in Blake’s [guitarist/vocalist] life. Each song represents someone important in his life or a member of his family. There’s a sense of family amongst the band, and that’s heard on the album. I love it; I’m best friends with all of them. I’m always staying over at their house, and I feel like I’m part of their family as well. It’s great. It’s a lot more comfortable because there’s not too much passive communication amongst the band members. No one’s ever tip-toeing around matters; everyone’s real frank with each other. The Layman family is amazing, and their parents are so supportive.

What do you guys think of sometimes being labelled as an emo band? Do you guys see those influences people ascribe to you? Are there any bands within the genre you try emulating or are inspired by?

We definitely are rooted from bands like TAKING BACK SUNDAY and BRAND NEW. We all initially came together with that common ground. I remember I was in community college for a while, and that’s where I met Blake. One of the first things we started talking about was all early 2000’s emo bands that we love. There’s also the whole ‘Midwest Emo’ revival going on. We definitely pull from a lot of those bands like PRAWN, but for our newer stuff we’re taking influence from things like THE WINSTON JAZZ ROUTINE and GATES.

We take a lot of influence from things outside of the emo scene. We hate the term emo but like the idea. I think it’s often misconstrued, but I guess we’re more old school with that term.

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What have you guys been up to since releasing your record last June?

Recently, we went to a studio [White Star] near Fork Union, Va. We recorded a new EP that we’ll hopefully be releasing sometime in 2015. We’re waiting for it to be mixed and mastered, but we don’t know how long that will take. It’s going to be five songs. It’ll be a new sound; it’s going to be a lot more multi-dimensional with more instruments and sounds. It’s not going to sound as big as our last album; it’s going to be more subtle in its overall character. We’re trying to bring out more of our gentler, melodic sounds. We’re focusing a lot more on timbres than power.

We’re waiting to come up with the money and find someone more professional to mix and master it because we feel like we’re at that level now. I feel that I can only do so much with my experience as a sound engineer.

What are some of your other plans for 2015? Any possible tours, single releases, or anything of that nature?

I think we’re taking a little break. We’re all trying to finish school. Blake is currently living in D.C. and doing an internship there, so he’s going to be there for the remainder of the school year. Everything was really tense and stressful releasing the full length, so we’ve decided to take a short break to recharge our creative energy.

In the meantime, we’ll be promoting our stuff as much as we can and figuring out a way to put out this new album and have it polished. After that, I think we’re going to start playing in our local scene a lot more. We’ll definitely be playing a lot in Charlottesville. We hope to build our reputation there. We’re considering a full U.S. tour so that’s in our future, hopefully. We’re crossing our fingers.

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CLICK HERE TO LISTEN TO RAINTREE’S LATEST RECORD

 

How was it working with a label for your last release? Any idea as to who you’d want to put out your next album?

We worked with Flesh and Bones Records; they’re only putting stuff out on cassette right now, but it’s cool. He’s a good friend of ours and is letting us try and release that record and the new one with anyone else we’d like as well. He’s helping us with distribution, and we’re helping him get the word out about his label. It’s a quid pro quo kind of thing.

Topshelf [Records] would be really cool, but I don’t know. If we could get anything, that’d be great, as long as it’s a label we believe in. I can’t think of anyone else we’d want to be with or any label we’d die to be on.

What’s the scene like in Charlottesville? Where are some of the cool spots putting on shows?

It’s a tricky place to be. There’s a lot of underground bands and good sense of solidarity amongst all the musicians there, especially in the underground because everyone’s friendly or already good friends. There’s a good support system on that end, but the scene is very fickle. Because it’s such a preppy college city with an older generation, there’s a desire for a specific sound, and it gets catered to mostly.

Twisted [Branch] Tea Bazaar is one spot we love and enjoy playing at. They’re really supportive of underground music and bands. There used to be a place called Random Row Books that was a cool place for DIY groups and was really good and had awesome integrity.

It’s tough. You can get good fans, but it can be hard to get people out, and there’s not a lot of places to play. We actually have hosted a lot of shows ourselves in the Layman’s basement. It’s one of those things where if we can’t find a place to play, we just set up shows ourselves. I don’t want to bash Charlottesville’s music scene because it is nice, but it could be a little more productive for underground bands.

Anything else you’d like to add or say?

I just heard the new S. Carey album, and it is mindblowingly good! [I’m] stoked about that. That’s probably something you might hear us drawing some influence from. I had to throw that in the interview.

For more updates on RAINTREE, be sure to “like” their Facebook page, follow them on Twitter and Tumblr, and check out their music on Bandcamp.

VIRGINIA’S LATEST EMO BAND, THE WEAK DAYS, RELEASE DEBUT EP — “A WEEK’S DAZE”

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PHOTO PROVIDED BY THE WEAK DAYS

The newest Virginia emo “twinkly” to hit the scene is Richmond’s trio THE WEAK DAYS, whose members include Tommy McPhail, Anastasia Rivera, and Dustin Reinink, who also plays in the pop punk duo WINNING THE LOSER’S BRACKET. The five tracks on this EP are pure, angsty, and downright beautiful, in their own right. You can stream the full EP below.

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RICHMOND DIY LEGENDS, SUNDIALS, FINISH TOUR WITH DOWSING AND THE SIDEKICKS AND PREPARE FOR THE RELEASE OF LATEST EP ON TOPSHELF RECORDS

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INTERVIEW WITH JOE FITZPATRICK

PHOTOS AND VIDEO PROVIDED BY TOPSHELF RECORDS AND DOWSING

Very few bands embody the creative spirit of the city of Richmond as much as the pop-rock three-piece known as SUNDIALS. Since their inception in 2010, SUNDIALS have been making a huge name for themselves in the DIY indie punk scene as one of the need-to-know bands in the genre. Inspired by bands such as THE LEMONHEADS and ALKALINE TRIO, the band, which consists of guitarist/vocalist Harris Mendell , bassist/vocalist Carl Athey, and drummer Cory Chubb, have been filling basements, clubs, and garages from coast to coast on their own terms. Now signed to Topshelf Records, the band is on the verge of releasing a new EP titled Kick and shows no signs of slowing down any time soon. We spoke with Athey regarding the band’s move to Topshelf Records and their soon to be released EP, memorable moments of their summer tour, as well as their passion for DIY.

You guys recently recorded your new EP Kick at Noisy Little Critter in West Chester, PA with producer Mike Bardzik, who you also worked with on your last studio LP, When I Couldn’t Breathe, which is set to be released on Topshelf Records. Why did you decide to go with Topshelf Records for this release?

We had met Kevin [Duquette] at one of our shows in Boston a couple months back — probably last winter now. We were doing a couple shows with LEMURIA on that tour, and he came out to our show. We met and we got along, and until we did stuff with Asian Man Records, we had never released more than one record with a record label. We had done five 7” and an LP. We put out a bunch of stuff, and we always kind of hopped around. We always like to mix things up, and Kevin seemed into it. So here we are.

Can you tell us about how the recording process went?

It’s a six song EP. It’s about 18 minutes of music. We wanted to get working on a new release since it had been a while since our last full-length, and since then we put out a collection LP that had a few unreleased songs on it. But it had been a while since we had done anything really substantial new, and we didn’t want to wait to get a full-length together. So we decided to do this EP. Ya know, something a little more than a 7″, a little more than two or three songs. We wanted it to feel more substantial even if it’s not quite a full-length record. As far as the recording process, we worked with Mike before so we knew his studio pretty well. We knew a lot of the gear we were working with. We got in there and we stayed with him most of the time that we were there, which was like what we did back when we recorded When I Couldn’t Breathe. We stayed in his house, woke up in the morning and went in the studio and got our days underway. It was pretty much the same thing this time around.

Have you guys set a release date for it yet?

The official release date is November 4. We were hoping it would be out a little bit earlier, but the mixing and mastering process kind of took us a little while longer this time around. November 4th it should be ready to go. Hopefully we will have copies with us at FEST in Gainesville at the end of October.

Awesome! Are you doing a CD release show for it?

What we’re currently planning on doing, I believe, is a three-show weekend where we’ll probably do New York, Philadelphia, and Richmond.

Out of the six songs on the EP, is there any song in particular you are most looking forward to playing live?

I don’t know. I like them all a lot. We’ve been playing two of them on this tour, and they’re going pretty well. I like the way they fit into our set. I like the way they sound. They have a lot of energy, but still sounds like us. They fit in well with our older songs while still being something new to give to people. But we wrote the longest song we have ever written, and I’m looking forward to playing that live for sure. It’s called “Eugene”.

I read on Property of Zack that while in Seattle on your current tour, you guys happened to come upon Kurt Cobain’s house. Can you tell me more about that experience?

We went swimming with THE SIDEKICKS and DOWSING, who we are on tour with, and this band THE EXQUISITES who did an LP on Asian Man Records last year. They played our show [and] took us to Lake Washington afterwards. We all went swimming, and it was the middle of the night — beautiful night, clear skies, stuff like that. We swam for maybe 45 minutes, got our stuff together and got in the bus to get ready to go, and we drove just a little bit — like half a block. THE SIDEKICKS stopped and told us, “Get out. This is Kurt Cobain’s house right here.” So it was maybe 50 yards from where we were swimming was the house itself. So we got out and had a moment around the memorial bench and got back in the bus and away we went.

I also read from that Property of Zack “road update” about the school bus you converted into a tour bus. Whose idea was that?

It belongs to Mikey from DOWSING. His dad worked for a school district in the St. Louis area, and they had a bunch of buses that they were getting rid of, like an old fleet. He managed to get a hold of one, and it’s what they have been touring in for a while, I think.

Are all of the bands on the tour riding in the bus?

No, THE SIDEKICKS have their own van, but SUNDIALS and DOWSING are in it together.

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I noticed that you guys seem to play a lot of DIY venues. Is that important to your band when booking tours?

Yeah, it definitely is. We all grew up on punk rock, and DIY, and all ages. I think it’s in general kinda the best way to make music because it gives you the most control over your own art. The more you are doing on yourself, the less you have to worry about other people trying to manipulate what you are doing, and whenever we can we definitely like to play all-ages shows — at the very least 18 and up. We don’t really like doing 21 and up for our gigs if we can avoid them. It gives everyone an opportunity to be involved, ya know.

Being one of the more successful DIY bands from Virginia, do you have any advice to aspiring musicians?

Other than if you can do it yourself to do that, not really. Have fun. You shouldn’t be playing music if you are not having fun doing it or if that’s not your primary motivation for doing it.

After this tour, what is next on the agenda for SUNDIALS?

We’re gonna get the EP out this fall, and we are starting to write for a new full length after that.

Do you have any idea on when the full length might be out?

No clue.

For more updates on SUNDIALS, be sure to “like” their Facebook page, follow them on Twitter and Tumblr, and listen to their music on Bandcamp.

FOLLOWING BREAK UP OF HIS POP PUNK BAND, JONNY MAYS OF WATERMEDOWN DELIVERS PASSIONATE, HEART FILLED MUSIC AND PLANS TO RECORD HIS FIRST FULL-LENGTH ALBUM

WMD 1

INTERVIEW BY JOE FITZPATRICK

PHOTOS BY CLAIRE KIM PHOTOGRAPHY

There are few bands that can make me feel inspired in a dingy dive bar than the heart filled, angst ridden music of WATERMEDOWN. Better known as Jonny Mays, who is originally from McLean, formed this project in early 2012 following the breakup of his former pop punk band. Feeling uninspired, Mays  sought out to create something that was unlike anything anybody was creating at the time. With a squeaky voice and a loud scream, Mays relentlessly worked to bring his feelings to life. With an acoustic guitar and collection of pedals, Mays started to bring his music out to the public in any way he could. Even if it meant playing on shows with aspiring pop punk bands hoping to be the next big thing. But when Mays graces the stage, all eyes and ears are drawn to him for his honestly and raw emotion that captivates the soul. We spoke with Mays regarding his unique musical delivery and his love of imperfections,  his recent move to Richmond and the impact he hopes it will make on his music  career, as well as his upcoming first full-length album, which is to be recorded this Saturday.

Your songs, which are a combination of singing, shouting, and spoken word, seem to have a very powerful impact on your audiences. Why did you choose to share your music in this way?

They are particular vocal styles that I tend to gravitate to, and I wanted to service them all in one project. So I just decided to do all three.

What are some of your influences that drove you toward that musical direction?

So, so many. Probably for the more recent stuff that I’ve been doing, which includes the three vocal styles, is this really good band called MANSIONS, which is incredible. That’s my main influence right now. Other than them, just countless bands that I have acquired and seen over the past three years. Every time I see a band and like it a lot, I’ll be observing, and after watching it I will just turn to my inner self and try to emulate what I like about that.

Can you tell me where the inspiration for your name comes from?

It was a long time ago. I had just broken up with my really horrible, awful pop punk band, and I wanted to do something different. I was with my older brother who was the founder with me of the band, and we were sitting in my attic listening to really mellow music. Out of nowhere I thought of something, and I was just like, “Dude, WATERMEDOWN! That sounds cool.” I never had an idea or a background behind it for the first year, but then progressively, I acquired an idea of it meaning just take me as I am. Don’t try to make me something else. Just listen, and if you don’t like it…sorry. This is what I want to do.

I understand that WATERMEDOWN used to be a band, but now it’s just you. Can you tell me why the other guys aren’t involved anymore?

It’s kind of complicated. More so the whole factor was that as a whole, unfortunately all of us live in different places and went to different colleges, and it just got to the point where we couldn’t play shows together and I got so invested that I didn’t want to stop this. I would record all the recordings myself, and then we would practice and jam them out and then make a live set. I thought I could always continue what I have been doing to a more convenient extent. I can just play solo shows and tour that way so it’s only revolving around my schedule.

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You recently released a test press of songs called Perfect Is Pointless. What was the inspiration for that title and the album art?

The name Perfect Is Pointless is actually a lyric in a previous song that I completely scrapped. When I was on my last tour with my friend Daniel Thompson and a band called MY HEART MY ANCHOR, we were in Connecticut. and we were outside of this show that we went to go see because we had an off date. There was a band [playing the show] called MAJOR LEAGUE, and the lovely lead singer of the band talked to us for a very prolonged amount of time. He described to us the recording process for his latest record, which was produced by Will Yip, and he kind of repeated a line that Will said. He said, “If the record is not perfect, then it is perfect. The way he records, allegedly, is with nothing processed or anything. Basically, I like the idea of if something is not perfect, then it is good.

Then the album artwork kind of transcends throughout the lyrics because the main message repeats that there is this sort of storm, which is collectively building, and it’s obviously a metaphor. It’s kind of talking about me because the whole album is in first person. In the background of the album artwork there is the sunshine beaming out of the storm. My very good friend Shannon Lee painted that for me, and she is incredible.

Are there any common themes that tend to reoccur in your music?

Absolutely. I usually tend to write a lot about dark things. Everything that I write is usually from my perspective of things I see. It isn’t something made up, but it’s something that I’ll feel  at the time when I write those songs. Most of the time, those feelings don’t leave me even after channeling them through songs. A lot of the time I’ll repeat a lot of lyrics from newer and older releases. All of my songs are intertwined, in a sense.

With your recent relocation to Richmond, do you have any plans to be more involved with the local music scene there?

That is definitely one of my main goals the second that I get down there. I have never really been affiliated with the Richmond scene, but I’ve always looked into it as an outsider and been like, “Wow! That’s a really amazing looking scene. I wish I could be a part of that.” The only chance I’ve had playing in Richmond was at an open mic night held by a wonderful person named Jim Dabb, and one of me and my friend’s laundry day, we had an off day and we did that open mic. It was great, and we had a fantastic time. I would definitely like to get into the larger communities down there like the DIY scene especially.

I saw on your Instagram that this Saturday you will begin recording your first full-length. Can you tell me more about that?

Me and the drummer did a 10-day tour together back in May, and the entire time we connected and bonded and shared ideas to the point where we are now. We have practiced together, even overnight, and we have written an album together, like 10 songs completely that I have just never been more proud of than anything that I have ever done. This is going to be the first release where I haven’t been the entire mind  behind it, and I am really excited about it. This is going to be good. We hope to have it released by the end of the year, and I plan on pushing it to a record label that I believe in.

CLICK HERE TO LISTEN TO THE LATEST MUSIC FROM WATERMEDOWN

CLICK HERE TO LISTEN TO THE LATEST MUSIC FROM WATERMEDOWN

Do you have any upcoming shows or anything else you would like to announce at this time?

I have two shows left before I begin moving down [to Richmond], but once I get settled there I will start focusing more on music.

For more updates on WATERMEDOWN, be sure to “like” his Facebook page, follow him on Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr, subscribe to his YouTube channel, and check out his music on Bandcamp.

CHARLOTTESVILLE BAND GOSSAMER CREATE LONG, ONGOING OVERTURE OF SELF-DEPRECATING PUNK ROCK TO SET THE TONE FOR UPCOMING GRAPHIC NOVEL BY JOHNNY SAND

GOSSAMER 1

INTERVIEW BY JOE FITZPATRICK

PHOTOS BY BRIAN KOMATZ

Fueled by an unhealthy diet of donuts, Looney Tunes, and hatred for the world and themselves, the punk-emo-whatever band GOSSAMER from Charlottesville is making a name for the self-loathing punk bands of the world that refuse to stay positive. With a subtle air of sarcasm and scorn, GOSSAMER have been creating music to delight and inspire. Formed by vocalist/guitarist Brian “Bummer” Komatz, the band also includes drummer Ivan Barry and bassist/vocalist Bob Finley. Though they may be self-deprecating, their music is sure to effect you in one way or another, and hopefully for better rather than worse. One can hope at least. We spoke with Komatz and Finley about how their band initiated and the origins of their negativity, their ongoing work with graphic artist Johnny Sand, and their latest EP, which is aptly titled Not Lame.

You describe your band as “Self-Deprecating Punk Rock”. Can you explain what you mean by that?

Bob: At least most of the songs are about us hating ourselves or other things around ourselves.

Brian: And just general anxiety. It’s basically about how we suck (laughs).

So do you really think your band is the worst thing to happen to punk music?

Brian: I do. I think we’re an incredible disgrace, and we’ll make people ashamed of what they have listened to in high school.

Bob: Meh…I hope not (laughs).

Brian: Someone has to keep the self-loathing to drive the inspiration of the band, and Bob is the motivation of, ‘Hey, things aren’t too bad.’

Would you consider yourselves more emo than punk?

Brian: Maybe? Probably.

Bob: We do actually listen to a lot of emo stuff.

Brian: A lot of our influences are actually from old 90’s emo. For instance, the song “Beating Myself Up” actually straight up references JAWBREAKER’s song “Boxcar”. They have a part in the chorus that goes, “One, two, three, four. Who’s punk? What’s the score?”, and we straight up reference JAWBREAKER with that. “So Far Away” is a blatant rip-off of any song from SMOKING POPES.

Tell me about how your band got started.

Bob: Interestingly. Brian came to me and said, ‘Hey we are going to try to make an album for this comic book (Brian asks Bobby if he wants a donut, to which he replies, “Yeah, I want a donut.”) Then we got together with another guitarist, who just didn’t really have the time to be in the band. So we started thinking of music about that, which was more or less in the same vein that it is now, except for that we were trying to be more like the characters in the comic book. We just wanted to hate everything in general  and then reflect it onto ourselves. We haven’t heard about the comic book recently, so now we’re just making music.

Brian: Johnny is currently working on it, and he has been worrying about his move to San Francisco. He is currently back on it fixing up the drafts and everything for the comic.

So you guys are still doing the comic, but the music you recently released is not for it?

Bob: His thing [for us] is like, ‘make whatever you want’.

Brian: We are setting the tone for the comic. We’re like the long, ongoing depressing overture for this graphic novel that is coming out.

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What inspired you to choose your band name?

Brian: Incredible boredom and Looney Tunes.  And my love of spiders (laughs). While we were coming up with band names, I was kind of fucking around, and I was just like, “Let’s be called Marvin the Martian and all these really terrible, just obvious, would-not-work names from Looney Tunes characters,” and I was like, “Oh wait! There is that red monster named GOSSAMER.” When we found out what the definition was of the actual word “gossamer”, we were like, “I guess that’s kinda sad. That will work.”

What do you guys have against New Jersey?

Bob: That song we wrote in about 10 minutes. Our friend Kyle, who is from New Jersey, is in a band called THIS IS ME LOOKING DANGEROUS, and the way he works is he has four or five catchphrases, one of which is “Murder me”, and one of the others is “Life of a toilet nobody flushes”. So all we did was add “Fuck New Jersey, and I never want to go back”. We had just come back from going to New Jersey to see BOMB THE MUSIC INDUSTRY. New Jersey wasn’t that bad, but that’s not the point here, Joe!

Alright, get to the point (laughs).

Brian: I hate that all great bands come from New Jersey, and that pisses me off.

Bob: So we decided to make a TITUS ANDRONICUS style blues-punk song, and just say, “Murder me” over, and over, and over, and over, and over again.

I love it (laughs). Why did you decide to name your new EP Not Lame?

Brian: I guess I’ll take this one. Well Joe, you’ve known me for about 10 years or so, and one thing I definitely am not is incredibly proud of my music (laughs). The original idea was we were just gonna call it GOSSAMER Demo, but I decided, we need to attract the masses and what’s the best way to describe our music? It’s not lame. That’s really it. There were other ideas trying to take lines from songs, but Not Lame worked perfectly. It’s the best option.

Do you have any more mini EPs you plan to release this year?

Brian: More than likely sometime in the next one or two months there will be seven more EPs.

Bob: I think what we are probably going to end up doing is just releasing a lot of little things. We could just wait and do an album , but it’s more fun to keep releasing it and have everyone see what we are doing.

Brian: We might not be able to get shows, but at least we can try to spread our music around.

CLICK HERE TO LISTEN TO GOSSAMER's EP, NOT LAME

CLICK HERE TO LISTEN TO GOSSAMER’s EP, NOT LAME

Have  you booked any shows yet?

Brian: That’s definitely what we are trying to do. We’ve been in contact with a bunch of venues in and around Charlottesville and Richmond, but unfortunately, the sucky thing is that people want bands with experience, just like people want their employees to have experience before they get a job. No one is willing to take a chance, but we’re working on it. We’re trying to find out some alternatives. We’ll be out there within the month or so.

For more updates on GOSSAMER, be sure to “like” their Facebook page, and listen to their music on Bandcamp.

DESPITE BEING BORN IN NEW JERSEY, CHARLIE PERRIS OF TAWNY PEAKS AND TRUMAN CALLS THE RICHMOND DIY PUNK SCENE HIS HOME

Charlie Perris 2

INTERVIEW BY CHRIS SUAREZ

PHOTOS PROVIDED BY ETHAN HANSEN AND CHARLIE PERRIS

While THE DOMINION COLLECTIVE is typically exclusive to Virginia bands, there are also a number of musicians and artists who call the Old Dominion home but are in bands based in different cities. Charlie Perris is a Virginia transplant from Montclair, New Jersey, which is a suburb outside of New York City that has become a sort of feeder for plenty of college-aged emo and indie bands, such as ALEX G, GIRL SCOUTS, SMOOTHER, and PINEGROVE, settling in New York, Philadelphia, and other northeastern metropolitan areas.

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